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Characterization of Unsaturated Mine Waste: A Case History

Publication: Canadian Geotechnical Journal
Author: P. K. Robertson, A. Viana de Fonesca, B. Ulrich,  J. Coffin
Date: June 2, 2017

ABSTRACT
It is becoming increasingly common in the mining industry for either crushed ore or filtered mine waste to be stacked
to a significant height (>100 m) in a moist state with little compaction, resulting in deposits that can be potentially loose and unsaturated. This paper presents a case history describing the characterization of stacked filtered tailings at a mine site in South America. Cone penetration tests with pore pressure and seismic velocity measurements (SCPTu) were carried out along with selected drilling, sampling, and laboratory testing. Compression wave velocity (Vp) and shear wave velocity (Vs) profiles were obtained and compared with laboratory values on reconstituted saturated and unsaturated samples. Results indicate that shear wave velocity is sensitive to suction hardening effects and appears to capture the correct unsaturated in situ behavior. The cone resistance, which is a large strain measurement, can destroy the beneficial effects of suction hardening and appears to be insensitive to the unsaturated in situ behavior, but may capture the correct behavior after the beneficial effects of suction are removed if the soil becomes saturated.

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